Six Years Strong and Growing: UNCF Connects Historically Black Colleges and Universities with Silicon Valley for Opportunities in the Tech Industry

UNCF HBCU Innovation Summit Oct. 10-14 Addresses Diversity in Silicon Valley

Today, UNCF will convene the 6th Annual HBCU Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley connecting HBCU leadership, faculty and students to the Silicon Valley tech community. This year will be a banner year, with 150 fellows and more than 20 faculty members representing more than 40 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) participating in the summit. During the summit, students will visit 14 Silicon Valley/Bay Area tech companies; HBCU computer science/engineering faculty will participate in the HBCU Computer Science (CS) Workshop to share best practices in computer science pedagogy, and HBCU leadership will share ideas on how HBCUs can pivot to support innovation, commercialization and startup/tech entrepreneurship on their respective campuses. 

The Summit serves as a forum, where the persistent challenges of diversity, inclusion and equity in Silicon Valley’s tech industry can be addressed. Despite the projected increase in tech jobs over the next few years, African Americans and women continue to be underrepresented and underestimated.  As reported by The New York Times, the percentage of minorities working at major Silicon Valley companies does not reflect U.S. demographics. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported an overall increase in STEM jobs. The Summit also focuses on the challenges that women have faced entering the tech workforce by empowering African American women through career development. Self-reported data from 11 of the major tech giants, according to CNET.com, reveals that less than 30 percent of their workforce is composed of women. Of the participating HBCU Innovation Summit students, nearly 40 percent are women.

Similar to previous years, HBCU CS majors had to compete to be selected to attend the Summit. This year, UNCF increased the capacity of the summit to 150 talented HBCU students, and the length of the Summit has also expanded to four days to accommodate a deeper engagement. The expanded Summit schedule will continue to engage HBCU students majoring in computer science, information technology and computer engineering to accelerate and empower them to chart their career paths into the tech industry.

In addition to the student track at the Summit, HBCU computer science faculty members will convene for professional development workshops and chart innovative approaches to computer science curriculum and pedagogy. Further, UNCF is also hosting an HBCU Leadership Pre-Summit Conference, composed of HBCU presidents, provosts, deans and innovative HBCU STEM advocates, who will build on the previous five years of engagement with key stakeholders in the Silicon Valley tech ecosystem.

On Oct. 10, students will begin their Silicon Valley Tech Trek by traveling around Silicon Valley and the Bay Area to visit Summit sponsors, including: Google, EA Interactive, Pixar, VISA, eBay, Symantec, Twitter, Workday, Walmart, NetApp, Adobe, PureStorage, Stubhub and Salesforce. Students will have a chance to meet chief technology executives and engage engineers during various panels and workshops.  

“Through UNCF, I was able to connect with different tech professionals and students as I visited many tech campuses” said ZamZam Munin, a rising junior at Benedict College.  “I was offered an internship through eBay. Thanks to the UNCF HBCU Innovation Summit, I got to see their campus and finalize my decision to accept eBay’s offer.”

Summit Fellows were competitively selected based on multiple components, including: GPAs, personal statements, internships, computer science skills and demonstrated leadership. The average GPA for this cohort is 3.6 out of 4.0. HBCU faculty were chosen based on their background in computer science education, leadership, and willingness to serve as change agents on their respective campuses to align computer science curriculum with industry workforce needs and demands.

“We launched the HBCU Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Initiative—or HBCU I.C.E.—back in 2012 as a program commitment to support the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Tech Inclusion initiative.  Our strong belief in the value of HBCUs and the HBCU experience for students pursuing careers in STEM fields led us to the Valley. We believe that HBCUs, the students they serve, and faculty they employ, have the ability to drive innovation and meet the high standards and succeed in the Silicon Valley tech workforce. We appreciate the support of our sponsors and partners in the Valley as their support is indicative of their belief in the value of the HBCU experience,” said UNCF’s National STEM Director, Dr. Chad Womack, a graduate of UNCF-member institution Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine.  “Our nation’s HBCUs are a fountainhead of top-tier talent that contribute to the emerging tech and innovation economy.  UNCF is committed to establishing a consistent HBCU and African American presence in Silicon Valley in a manner that adds value to the Silicon Valley tech ecosystem.  UNCF’s investments in our campuses, faculty and students are an expression of our belief in the enduring value of the HBCUs.”

“As a Summit alumnus, it was an eye-opening experience that motivated me to excel in the tech industry” Josh Fitchett, a senior at Morgan State University said. “Not only was I able to obtain a tech role with Lockheed Martin in the Orion EM2 Space Program, I was also able to network with other tech professionals in Silicon Valley that are now my mentors. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.”

At the conclusion of the Summit, students will participate in tech empowerment workshops and a technical career fair. Summit scholars will have the opportunity to network with recruiters, engage in technical and professional development workshops, and interview on-site for jobs and internships.

UNCF’s impact with the HBCU Innovation Summit has proved successful, as nearly a third of 2015 and 2016 participants are now interning or working full time at technology companies.

Summit sponsors include: Fund II Foundation, Walmart, Adobe, Anheuser Busch, Blackbaud, Chevron, eBay, Electronic Arts Inc., Goldman Sachs, Google, Indeed, Kaiser Permanente, NetApp, Pixar, Pure Storage, Quicken Loans, Salesforce, StubHub, Symantec, Twitter, Uber, Visa, Wells Fargo, Workday, National Science Foundation (NSF), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Alaska Airlines.

Follow the HBCU I.C.E. Innovation Summit on Twitter by following @UNCF and #HBCUInnovation. View 2017 HBCU I.C.E. Innovation Summit highlights here and visit UNCF.org/InnovationSummit

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About UNCF
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students' education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37-member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF awards more than $100 million in scholarships annually and administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in." ® Learn more at www.uncf.org, or for continuous news and updates, follow UNCF on Twitter, @UNCF.